Google is set to become a major player in the world of inflight WiFi with rumours of talks to buy Nokia's airplane broadband arm.
Nokia's technology could help Google offer a faster alternative to existing WiFi on airplanes, said people with knowledge of the discussions, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private.
Talks are advanced and an agreement may be reached soon, the people said, with Google seeking to tap into new services and reach more users by offering inflight high-speed Internet.
A final decision hasn’t been made and the companies could still decide against a deal, the people said. Representatives for Nokia and Google parent Alphabet declined to comment.
Nokia’s LTE A2G cellular-based system also creates a direct link between an aircraft and the ground instead of just bouncing the signal off of a satellite, enabling in-cabin high-speed internet services using WiFi, according to its website.
Onboard internet has been a consumer pain point for years, with spotty service and weak bandwidth. Yet travelers often pay handsomely for any connectivity on flights. That’s a business opportunity and also a chance for Google to expand its services.
The move could create a wealthy new competitor to Gogo, an existing provider of in-flight internet service.
While Nokia has been developing its in-flight internet technology, the project is a lesser priority than its work on 5G telecom equipment.
Google’s communications group is exploring ways to spread mobile connectivity as strong internet service is crucial to its search engine, YouTube video service and the ads that generate almost 90 percent of the company’s revenue.
The business, part of a long-term effort to share wireless spectrum in new ways, oversees existing offerings like the Project Fi wireless business, the Google Voice calling service and a large Wi-Fi network in Starbucks coffee shops.